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Fertilising a Sports Pitch When Cold Weather is Due

by TurfCareBlog

This blog looks at whether we should consider Fertilising a Sports Pitch When Cold Weather is Due , baring in mind we are now post a prolonged wet period when groundstaff haven’t been able to get onto their pitches, We now face a cold snap and with a lot of hungry sports pitches out there.


Are frosts an issue, possibly if you cannot get the granular fertiliser washed in and off the grass leaf before frosts form, as there is risk of leaf tissue scorch (blackening).

What’s the average temperature?

For the grass plant root system to take up the granular feed the plant needs to be actively growing at around an average temperature of 5/6 c and the question is are we going to be on or under that this coming week? 

An application just ahead of a period of cold weather lasting a week or two or longer could just see fertiliser application not being taken up by the plant at this late stage of the year (early Dec).

If you do choose to apply fertiliser and risk leaf scorch, the question is also will the fertiliser be up taken by the plant. The fertiliser will slowly break down in the soil with surface moisture, but until the plant starts growing again after the cold snap, it won’t take it up.

Blog link on, do we need to water in fertiliser applications in winter – https://turfcareblog.com/applying-fertiliser-if-no-rain-is-due/

poll result table
A twitter poll the community done yesterday, a mixed picture across the country

What’s my View

  1. I personally won’t apply fertiliser if the grass isn’t growing.
  2. I am desperate to get a feed on, but with overnight frost of -3 into this week l shall wait till frosts have passed.
  3. I won’t apply a fertiliser, unless l can ensure the fertiliser is washed off the leaf (rain/dews), if frost is a risk due to concerns re possibly leaf scorch.
  4. I am also quite a cautious person, so the reason for 1-3 above.   

Rye Grass goes Dormant when it’s too Cold!

If the grass goes dormant the plant’s root system will not be able to access those fertiliser granules and more than likely the nutrients will leach away and not become available to the plant at a later stage.

There is currently a lot of red thread turf disease present as in this below video, on my own square. For this disease to grow out, we need it to grow out in temperature up and above the 5/6 c forecast.

Is Liquid Fertiliser an Option?

 Liquid fertiliser is an option, but yet again relies on the grass plant being active to take in the fertiliser via the leaf, it will certainly be more effective at lower temperatures. Liquid fertiliser though also carries a scorch risk, so best avoided around frosty periods. 

If you feel at your location it’s going to be below an average of 5/6 c (day/night temp combined) then it’s worth considering holding back on the fertiliser and waiting for a warming period to return and the plant to wake up.

Soil Temperatures 

Also, a consideration is once we have had a frost or two, the soil temperature is more than likely going to be at a lower temperature than that of the air temperature, which again could encourage the rye grass to remain dormant.

Your Ground, Your Choice!

Once we hit the colder months of Jan/Feb and the plant goes into dormancy then it is very unlikely the plant will be able to uptake any nutrients. So, getting a fertiliser application if needed before Christmas is even more desirable, but only if conditions are right and that’s up to us to decide based on our needs, experience and weather forecast in our area.

Fertilising a Sports Pitch When Cold Weather is Due by Brian Sandalls, in response to frequently asked questions.

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